Tissue Regeneration Systems to Collaborate with J&J, DePuy Synthes

Earlier this summer, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and DePuy Synthes Products announced a new collaboration with Plymouth, MI-based Tissue Regeneration Systems (TRS) to help develop patient-specific, resorbable bone implants. (That means implants that can be broken down by the body after an interval of time passes.) Last week, TRS celebrated the opening of its new lab and manufacturing center, which will help the company meet the demands of its partnership with J&J.

Jim Fitzsimmons, president and CEO of TRS, says his company was spun out of technology developed at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. TRS uses 3-D printing to fabricate individualized designs to replace injured bones based on a patient’s CT scans.

“It’s not just a matter of putting a plate in, but a way to restore missing bones,” says Fitzsimmons, who is based in the Seattle area.

Say a soldier in Iraq is injured and suffers major bone trauma. The TRS process is twofold: First, custom scaffolding is created from patient scans using a biodegradable polymer that, over the course of about two years, is slowly reabsorbed by the body. The material is porous, which allows the patient’s bone to grow through it, and the process is meant to replace the titanium implants that are currently in use. Then, before the scaffolding is implanted into the patient, the surface is saturated with a mineral coating that sets the implant up to stimulate bone growth. So, while the implant is slowly being absorbed by the body, new bone material is forming.

Fitzsimmons says TRS opted to pursue partnerships as its main business model because the company’s technology lends itself to many different types of bone replacements, such as spinal fusion, rotator cuff surgery, hip replacements, and craniomaxillofacial surgery. Last year, TRS received FDA approval for its skeletal reconstruction and bone regeneration technology platform.

“Because there are so many applications for our technology, in order to get the process moving, we elected to partner with larger, established companies in the medical business,” he says. “Another reason to pursue this model is it requires much less capital. We manufacture, they take it to market, and we get a percentage of sales.”

Because TRS isn’t focused on the commercialization part, Fitzsimmons says he’s able to keep the team small—there are currently just five full-time employees, though he predicts that number will increase as TRS establishes more partnerships.

TRS’s lead investor is Wisconsin-based Venture Investors, but the company has also received funding from the Pure Michigan Venture Match Fund, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups. Since its formation in 2008, the company has raised a total of nearly $9 million. Fitzsimmons says TRS’s long-term goal is an acquisition by one of its corporate partners.

Trending on Xconomy